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TUESDAY, July 7, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Three-quarters of American adults favor raising the legal smoking age to 21, a new federal government study shows.
While support for such a law was strongest among older adults and those who never smoked, 70 percent of smokers also supported the concept.
Only 11 percent of adults strongly opposed such a policy, while 14 percent were somewhat opposed, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers found.
The study was published online July 7 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
"Raising the minimum age of sale [of tobacco products] to 21 could benefit the health of Americans in several ways," Brian King, acting deputy director for research translation in the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, said in an agency news release.
"It could delay the age of first experimenting with tobacco, reducing the likelihood of transitioning to regular use and increasing the likelihood that those who do become regular users can quit," he explained.
Research has shown that age-of-sale restrictions reduce tobacco use and dependency among young people, according to the CDC.
For example, an Institute of Medicine report released earlier this year said if all states raised the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21, there would be a 12 percent drop in cigarette smoking nationwide by 2100. That would lead to nearly 250,000 fewer premature deaths from smoking among people born between 2000 and 2019.
Although Hawaii raised the legal smoking age to 21 in June, 18 is the minimum age in most states. However, the minimum age is 19 in Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah, the CDC said.
And several cities and counties across the nation have raised the minimum age to 21, the agency added.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, July 7, 2015